Has Irish ever been cooler?
With An Cailín Ciúin making history as the first ever Irish language film nominated for an Oscar and Paul Mescal setting hearts racing by using his cúpla focal on the red carpet, Irish is having its moment in the sun.
This Seachtain na Gaeilge we asked some of our best-known Gaeilgeoirí about the importance of our native language and what it means to them.
Influencer Éadaoin Fitzmaurice
The Irish Language is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. It’s been around over 2,000 years — long before English — so using your cúpla focal to ensure it lives on is imperative as a nation.
Ba chóir dúinn a bheith bródúil as ar dteanga féin a labhairt – we should be proud to speak our own language.
Is nasc cumhachtach í an Ghaeilge lenár n-oidhreacht agus lenár gcultúr – it’s a powerful link to our heritage and or culture.
Is bealach iomlán difriúil é an Domhain a fheiceáil – it gives us a very different perspective on the world around us.
One of my favourite proverbs is ‘tír gan teanga, tír gan anam’ a country without a language is one without a soul. I honestly feel pure joy in my soul when I speak as Gaeilge, this is something I hope lots of people will feel during Seachtain na Gaeilge when they bain triail asti!
It’s an absolute honour to be an ambassador for Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia this year. I look forward to posting much more Gaeilge content over the next three weeks.
GAA Beo Presenter Micheál Ó Domhnaill
I am lucky in that I grew up in an Irish language household in the An Rinn Gaeltacht in Waterford. So having Irish as my first language has not only been important to me culturally but it has opened doors in many different ways, and for the past 25 years my main area of work has been as sports presenter with TG4’s GAA Beo programme.
What might interest people is that the work we do both in front of and behind the screen is done as Gaeilge, so meetings, chats with analysts and research is done largely in Irish.
Allied to the way the world is so connected online, this shows that you can do your everyday business in our native language and wherever you live, home or abroad, you can use Irish as your regular language at work or with friends.
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I’m of the opinion that however basic your grasp of the language is, you should have confidence in your ability to communicate with others. The more confidence you have, the more you’ll want to communicate and this opens up the many online and in-person resources and classes that are available, as well as limitless resources from informal groups that meet over a cup of coffee to radio, TV and online programmes.
So keep trying, use whatever you know with others at home and try to add a few words and phrases each day. Gradually you’ll grow in confidence, and the sky is the limit after that. When the war in Ukraine broke out I was amazed to hear Ukrainian people reporting on TG4 news in fluent Irish and describing a heartbreaking situation in detail.
So let’s be proud of our language, the first steps can be the hardest, but persist with it and anything is possible! De réir a chéile a thógtar na caisleáin.
I love it when people come up to us at matches for a chat, especially when they do so in Irish. It shows that they are making an effort and that they also see our games and language as part of our Irish identity.
Where I live in Sligo, there’s a brilliant Gaelscoil up the road where our children attended and where they developed their love for Irish.
Along with exposure to the language at home, they have a healthy relationship with the language, and if children immerse themselves in the language from an early age they won’t have many of the hang-ups that some adults have. An Ghaeilge Abú!
Today FM’s Louise Cantillon
I have always been really lucky to have Irish in my life, my mam is a Gaeilgoir from Ballyheigue in North Kerry which isn’t a Gaeltacht area. But she always spoke Irish to us growing up, she was an Irish teacher. I did my Leaving Cert as Gaeilge and then I went on to train to be an Irish and PE teacher.
There was always a massive sense of pride and love in the language in my house. I never anticipated that I would work so much with the language or in the Irish language media. It has opened so many doors for me. I love it even more now than I did growing up.
Of course, you have that confidence using the language if you grow up with it. But I would tell people not to be nervous using their cúpla focal. I don’t know many of us can say we have grammatically correct English and we use it all the time. That’s the beauty of a language – it’s about communicating. It’s not about grammar.
People have this idea that Irish is like being in secondary school and doing your Irish oral. We need to shake that notion. You should be proud of your cúpla focal. You spent every day in primary and secondary school using it. You have a stór focal in your mind, it might be buried, but it’s there. Go easy on yourself and use the basics.
Gaeilge is so accessible now. From social media to TV to radio – tune in every day. And as cheesy as it sounds practice does make perfect. As Gaeilge, we say ‘cleachtadh a dhéanann máistreacht’ which means practice makes you a master. That’s what language is, something to be used not to be afraid of.
Being on Today FM is such a privilege and being able to speak to a national audience is incredible. That is why I use my cúpla focal. Maybe you’re teaching people something. I do think Gaeilge is having a resurgance.
TG4 Presenter Caitlín Nic Aoidh
I was privileged because Irish was spoken to us from the cradle. I was brought up in Gaeltacht and went to the local school, Scoil Náisiúnta Ghort a’ Choirce, my parish, the parish of Cloich Cheannfhaola is an Irish-speaking Gaeltacht.
We didn’t speak anything in our house but Irish and it was all around us. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have fluent Irish until I grew up and went to college.
But Irish is not for Gaeltacht people only, I would say to anybody who has a cúpla focal to speak it. I have a great admiration for anybody who learnt the language and I would say to them, speak your few words every day and add to it by watching TG4 Programmes and listening to Raidió na Gaeltachta and speaking to anyone who is prepared to listen.
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I think people are realising that our language is one of our most important cultural identities, there are so many Gaelscoileanna in the country now and parents are wanting to give their children the best opportunity by having Irish.
There is nothing I like better than listening to children speaking Irish. I think our very own Hollywood star Paul Mescal did us all proud by speaking as Gaeilge ar the BAFTAS. He’s a great ambassador for our language.
Cúla4 Presenter Niamh Ní Chróinín
I was brought up in Dublin and feel very lucky that my parents spoke Irish to me at home. I was always surrounded by the language, by Irish music and dance growing up. I speak Irish with lots of my friends and I love that! Having Irish has given me so many opportunities over the years and I try to live as much of my life as possible through Irish.
Have a look at the interview Paul Mescal did recently with TG4 and use that as your inspiration! It’s impossible to learn a language without making mistakes! Make lots of mistakes now and you’ll make less and less over time. Use your cúpla focal casually throughout the day by saying go raibh maith agat to the bus driver or slán when you’re leaving the office.
Follow people on Instagram that speak Irish, join a sports team that trains through Irish, go to a conversation circle and watch Irish language tv! All these things help to build your confidence but you’ll probably find that a lot of people feel the same way you do.
In general, people are a lot better at Irish than they think so just go for it and use whatever Gaeilge you have!
Irish has been normalised over the last while in a big way thanks to Gaelscoileanna, summer Gaeltacht courses, Irish language groups, media and social media. A massive shoutout here to everything that TG4 and Cúla4 have done over the years!